Monday, May 26, 2014

Halfway to Graduation

The Mac Weekly staff, closing out the semester and celebrating 14 great issues. 

Emailing a final paper to my professor earlier this week might have been an anticlimactic way to end my sophomore year, but it was still a huge moment, and one I'm still trying to process: My college career is half over.

I don't know where the time went. It seems like it was only yesterday that my dad was driving me up to Macalester and helping me move into my room in Turck Hall. And now I'm packing up to leave the dorms for good and moving into an apartment on Grand Avenue.

Macward Bound - the awesome pre-orientation program which made me feel connected to Mac for the first time.
Not going to lie, it's a bit scary. I only have three semesters (I’ll be studying abroad next spring) left in a place I've grown to love and feel completely comfortable calling home. The cliché “time flies when you're having fun” really is true. I've definitely filled the past two years of my life with amazing, eye-opening experiences I couldn't have had anywhere else. The things I've learned, the memories I've made, the people I've met—they've changed my life in ways I didn't even realize were possible before I entered college.

One of our many off-campus excursions: here, my friends and I are ice skating in Downtown St. Paul.

My first year here was all about overcoming my fear of the unknown. Everything was new: new friends, new classes, new bed sheets (at the urging of my mother), a new city, and a chance for a completely new start. I entered Macalester without any idea of what I wanted to study or who I wanted to be. In typical liberal arts fashion, I took eight classes that year—all in different subjects. I signed up to be on the email lists of a myriad of clubs, hoping that I'd land on that one activity where I could find my niche. I tried to meet as many different people as possible, in the hopes that maybe that one conversation in Cafe Mac would lead to a lasting friendship. Everything was unknown and full of possibility—and it was exciting. It was a whirlwind of a year, but I loved it.

This room on the first floor of Bigelow was my home during sophomore year.

My Regional Geography of the U.S. and Canada class, posing for a picture while on our field trip to the Iron Range.
Sophomore year I was more settled. Through the long process of trying to figure out who I am and what my role is at Macalester (a process that will never be over), I've gotten a better handle on who I want to be and what I'm passionate about. I declared a Geography major, became an editor of The Mac Weekly, and started working in the Admissions Office. Those three places became my second homes. I found my friendship group. I established a solid routine. My classes took me out into the Twin Cities on a regular basis, which made me feel part of a community larger than Macalester. I finally found my niche, and it felt great.

I'm not sure what the next two years will bring. Many of my classmates will be abroad when I return in the fall, so there'll definitely be a different feel on campus. I will be living off campus myself, so I won't have the two social constants of the residence halls and Cafe Mac. My classes will be a bit harder as I get into upper-level material for my major, but the chance to further develop my connections with professors through that work is too good to pass up. And overall, the thought of being an upperclassman is exciting.

How every year begins and ends. You never realize how much stuff you have until you have to pack it all up.
I'm thinking back now to the reasons why I chose Macalester. Every time I give a tour, a guest asks me that question—and it's my favorite question to be asked. My answer is the same every time: I wanted to attend a small liberal arts college with a strong campus environment, set in the middle of a larger city where I could learn from my surroundings and get out into the community. I wanted a school where I could make meaningful connections—where I could get to know my professors on a personal basis and say hello to people I see while walking to class. I wanted an environment that prided itself on its diversity and its ability to challenge me with different opinions and perspectives. And I wanted a school that was academically driven, one where I would learn, but not one that took itself too seriously.

And, after having two years to evaluate whether Macalester has lived up to these expectations, I can definitively say no: it has exceeded them. It has been everything I wanted and more, and I'm excited for what the next two years will bring.

—Joe Klein ’16